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USA 1960
produced by
Alfred Hitchcock for Shamley Productions/Universal
directed by Alfred Hitchcock
starring Anthony Perkins, Vera Miles, John Gavin, Janet Leigh, Martin Balsam, John McIntire, Simon Oakland, Frank Albertson, Patricia Hitchcock, Vaughn Taylor, Lurene Tuttle, John Anderson, Mort Mills, Francis De Sales, George Eldredge, Sam Flint, Frank Killmond, and the voices of Virginia Gregg, Paul Jasmin, Jeanette Nolan
screenplay by Joseph Stefano, based on the novel by Robert Bloch, music by Bernard Herrmann, pictorial consultant: Saul Bass

Psycho, Norman Bates

review by
Mike Haberfelner

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Marion (Janet Leigh) dreams about living a carefree life with her lover Sam (John Gavin) ... but they're both in debt, he's living in another town, and the prospects for at least the next at least couple of years aren't exactly promising - so when her boss asks her to deposit $40,000 in the bank, and she feels the lump of money in her hand, she has a lapse of judgment, takes the money, hops into her car, and drives all the way up to her lover's hometown. But the ride's longer than expected, and her guilt weighing in on her makes her making all kinds of bizarre decisions ... until she loses her way in the rain and finds a safe haven at Bates' Motel, a place off the beaten track that hasn't seen a guest in weeks - so it's no wonder that the hotel owner Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins), a nice and handsome enough young fellow, is totally excited about the new arrival, imposes on her a bit, has long conversations with her, makes her sandwiches ... but as I said, he's always nice enough, and he seems to have a dragon of a mother (whom Marion only ever hears nagging) so he deserves sympathy, and something in what he says makes Marion decide to drive back the very next day and deposit the money after all the way she should have, and to face the consequences. Sure, Norman also has his flaws, like he likes to spy on Marion when she has a shower, but after all, he's just a man ... and then, Marion is slaughtered in the shower by a woman, Norman's mother apparently, and while he's shocked, he still removes the body and all traces Marion was ever here. Not too hard a job as she checked in under an assumed name ...

Lila (Vera Miles), Marion's sister, arrives at Sam's shop, believing he hides herand the money and wanting to persuade the both of them to give it up to avoid severe trouble. But Sam assures her he didn't even know Marion was coming (which is true), and Lila, who has never met Sam before, believes him and the two try to figure out what to do yet - and are soon joined by Arbogast (Martin Balsam), a private detective hired by Marion's boss to retrieve the money. At first, he suspects the two of them even, but he's easily convinced they have nothing to do with it but are as adamant as him to track Marion down. Arbogast checks all the hotels and motels in the area until he happens upon Bates' Motel ... and something doesn't ring true about Norman, plus Arbogast is sure the key to it all is Norman's mother - but when he tries to sneak into the Bates-residence behind Norman's back, he's attacked by Norman's mum, stabbed and pushed down some stairs to his death.

Lila and Sam grow worried about having lost Arbogast, but knowing where he has gone, they check into Bates' Motel, posing as a couple, and soon they come to the same conclusion as Arbogast, that the key to the mystery is Norman's mother - so while Sam keeps Norman talking, Lila is to sneak into the Bates residence ... and she finds traces of the mother but not mum herself - until she looks in the basement ...

Norman meanwhile has figured out Sam is diverting him so Lila can meet mum, so he strikes him down then storms back to the residence to keep Lila away from mum ...

In the basement, Lila finds Mrs Bates sitting in a chair, but when she turns the chair around she finds it's only a mummified dead body - while Mrs Bates storms in behind her knife in hand, but just before she can strike, Sam enters from behind and wrestles her down ... to reveal her to be Norman himself dressed up in drag.

The story behind this, Norman has killed mum and her lover ten years ago out of jealousy but kept her mummified corpse with him ever since - and by and by he has assumed her personality to, including her jealousy over every girl who sexually arouses Norman, jealousy that usually ends in murder ...


Now let's state the obvious first, Psycho is of course a masterpiece, a relatively late masterpiece in Hitchcock's career, whose oeuvre had by 1960 already been somewhat marred by Hollywood gloss, too big budget and the sheer availability of whatever needed - in other words, he had become mainstream through and through. Psycho though was made on a very limited budget (still a far cry from actual low budget productions of the day mind you), with hardly a big name (other than Janet Leigh, and she gets butchered halfway through) in the cast, and the man had to relie more on his ingenuity once again ... and succeeds tremendously, making this one his best movie, and probably also his most influential (at least in terms of modern horror, serialkiller and slasher movies). Plus, Bernard Herman's musical score is pretty much as iconic as several scenes (first and foremost, duh, the shower scene), and Anthony Perkins' performance was flawless enough to typecast him for the rest of his life. And I could go on and on praising the movie, but at the same time it's not without flaws, and the biggest two are probably:

1) Martin Balsam's death scene: When he is stabbed and then walks down the stairs backwards in an awkward way, it looks more like slapstick than anything horrific, and at least for me it mars the tension with every viewing (and I've watched it often).

2) The psychiatrist's (Simon Oakland) monologue at the end that rather unnecessarily ties up all the ends, especially those that weren't loose. Now rumour has it that Hitchcock was pretty much forced to add this scene by the studio - might very well be, but he could have seen to it that the delivery was less camp and the whole thing was better and tighter written.

Am I picky?

Probably, because the film still is a masterpiece - but at the same time I do feel I'm right ...

But yeah, a must-see nevertheless!


review © by Mike Haberfelner


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Robots and rats,
demons and potholes,
cuddly toys and
shopping mall Santas,
love and death and everything in between,
Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

is all of that.


Tales to Chill
Your Bones to
a collection of short stories and mini-plays
ranging from the horrific to the darkly humourous,
from the post-apocalyptic
to the weirdly romantic,
tales that will give you a chill and maybe a chuckle, all thought up by
the twisted mind of
screenwriter and film reviewer
Michael Haberfelner.


Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

the new anthology by
Michael Haberfelner


Out now from




On the same day
a Burglar wants to kill you
and your Ex wants
to make up ...
... and for the life of it,
you can't decide


A Killer Conversation

produced by and starring
Melanie Denholme
directed by
David V.G. Davies
written by
Michael Haberfelner
Ryan Hunter and
Rudy Barrow

out now on DVD